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Friday, November 22, 2013

On Living in the Image of the Divine

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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Rabboisai,

I am rerunning this recent Drasha in light of the below article in today's New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/22/nyregion/outcast-mothers-death-and-questions-about-jewish-sects-sway-over-children.html?src=rechp&_r=2&


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On Living in the Image of the Divine


Moideh Ani Lifanecha Melech Chai VeKayam SheHechezarta Bi Nishmasi BiChemla Rabbah Emunasecha.

Thank you Reboinoisheloilum for returning me to normal life, after many weeks of intense interruption caused by the Yoimim Toivim that left me of the brink of being fired for missing so many days of work, for breaking my normal regimen, and for distracting all of my beloved donors… err … Talmidim from writing me checks… err… doing Mitzvois and supporting Limud Toirah.

Rabboisai,

I was delighted to hear Parshas Beraishis last week as we read that humankind, all of humanity, was created Betzelem Eloykim, in the image of the Divine. What does that mean?

According to Abaya, being created Betzelem Eloykim means that we were created very tall, very smart, very good looking, with the most beautiful perfectly curled Payis that one could ever imagine.

According to Rava, being created Betzelem Eloykim means that we were created to be intense and unpredictable, one day loving our children, and the next day smiting them with a plague or two, or a Schtickel famine. One day we speak of our undying commitment to our “bride” Klal Yisroel, and the next day we cut up her credit card, take away her car keys, and trade her to the Babylonians for $50,000 in cash, a utility infielder, and a nation to be named later.

But according to Rav Ashi, Abaya and Rava spent too much time at the “bummy” Shul and drank too many shots at Kiddush. Says Rav Ashi, mankind was created Betzelem Eloykim in the sense that we, mankind, were given free will. Unlike the plants and the animals, the other living inhabitants of this earth, we are not trapped to fulfill a very basic purpose as part of an ecosystem: To capture sunlight and convert it into energy, likely a plant. To consume plants in order to survive, like an herbivore. Or to eat herbivores while the National Geographic or Discovery Network cameras are rolling, like a carnivore. No, we have a purpose beyond our basic material needs. We have large brains. We have logic that allows us to exceed our animalistic kill-or-be-killed nature. We have opposable thumbs, and tools. We have writing and communications. We have the Internet. We have NPR. We have Sitcoms. We have Netflix. And some of us even have the Toirah.

We have the ability to build airplanes and grand buildings and write poetry and perform scientific research. We have the ability to do good deeds and help others. But we also have the ability to lie and cheat and steal. And kill. We have the ability to wage war against the guilty and the innocent, and to murder on an industrial scale.

And how do we determine what to do, as individuals, as part of a community, or as part of society as a whole? We have free will. Betzelem Eloykim.

Shoyn.

It is no coincidence that we read Parshas Beraishis following the long cycle of the Yumim Toivim, including Roish Hashanah and Yoim Kippur. On these days, and throughout the entire Aseres Yemai Teshivah, we ask Hakadoshboruchhu for acceptance, despite our inherently imperfect human natures. And why should He listen to us? “Kee Anu Amecha, VeAtta Eloykaynu; Anu Banecha, VeAtta Avinu.” “Because we are Your nation, and You are our Lord; We are Your children, and You are our father.” We are human beings. We do not always live up to the Reboinoishloilum’s expectations. But nevertheless we want Him, we pray to Him, to accept us as we are. We are complex. We are not all alike. We have diverse human natures and preferences and habits. Why? Because we have free choice. Because we were created Betzelem Eloykim.

And where does free will manifest itself? Well I am hungry right now, and I can decide to go to the kosher pizza place around the corner, have two slices and a coke, for the total price of $25. Or I can walk three blocks to McDonalds, Chass V’Sholom, and feed myself, my wife, my children, and my Einiklach, for the same $25. I can chose to keep Shabboskoidesh. Or I can desecrate Shabboskoidesh, violating the Word of Hakadoishboruchhu and risk really pissing Him off by turning on a light switch, Rachmuna Litzlan. I can choose to go to sleep at night by counting sheep (Hoyshiyah. Esss.. Amecha.. U’Varaiych…….. Esss……….. .ZZZZZZZ), or I can put myself to sleep by kneading the challah while thinking about Miley Cyrus, Claire Danes, George Clooney, or Rabbi Shmuley Boiteach, if you know what I mean.

But all of these examples are Bain Adam LaMakoim; They relate to religious commandments, rules and customs between man and the Aimishteh. But what of Bain Adam LeChaveiroi, actions that are between man and his fellow man? Whether they are actions dictated by the Toirah, or common rules of basic humanity, of society? Again, we are guided by our fundamental nature of being created Betzelem Eloykim. We have free will. We have free choice.

Rabboisai, when we look at the Eseres Hadibrois, the Ten Commandments, it is easy to discern that they are roughly divided between Mitzvois Bain Adam LaMakoim, and Mitzvois Bain Adam LeChaveiroi. Klal Yisroel has the Toirah NOT ONLY to teach us how to relate to the Divine, but also to teach us the proper ways to engage with our fellow man. Kabayd Ess Avicha ViEss Imecha – Respect your father and your mother. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not covet the spouse of another. Do not covet the property of another. These are the basic foundations of a functional society.

One need not be a Chassidic Rebbe or a Rosheshiva (like me) or a Rebbetzin with a three thousand dollar Sheytel, or even to believe in an anthropomorphic Reboinoisheloilum who engages with humankind though history in order to appreciate the centrality of these basic societal laws. Yes, even an Am Haaretz like you, my beloved Talmid, understands that if we do not answer to a basic human moral compass, all of society will break down. And one need only look 70 or 80 years back in our collective Jewish history to understand what happens when all of society breaks down – when there is confiscation of assets and enslavement and forced division of families and rape and medical experiments on human beings and gas chambers and mass murder. Klal Yisroel, of all Peoples, understands the importance of an orderly and just society.

But let us say, for arguments sake, that all of society does break down? What happens? Well, as we know from Parshas Noiach, Hakadoshboruchhu was once so disgusted, He decided to destroy the whole world, save Noiach, his family, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and Mary-Anne, and two of every kind of animal. But in the aftermath of the Mabul, the Great Flood, the Aimishteh makes a treaty and a vow never to destroy the world again. The Reboinoishloilum exercises His free choice to create the world. And then destroys the world. And then ultimately pledges to never destroy the world again.

Humankind may be flawed. Humanity may not always live up to Hakadoshboruchhu’s plans, but He is fundamentally committed to tolerance and acceptance. “Kee Anu Amecha, VeAtta Eloykaynu; Anu Banecha, VeAtta Avinu.”

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Rabboisai, we are living in dark times. There is a plague impacting pockets of the Orthodox community, particularly in Ultra-Orthodox, Chareidi, circles.

When spouses differ on what color to paint their walls, they usually find a compromise. When they differ on what to name a new baby, they usually compromise or take turns, allowing one parent to name the child and assigning naming rights to the next child to the other parent.

But when spouses break up, and especially when the breakups are driven by religious differences, it has become all-too-common for a parent, typically the parent that has chosen to remain observant, to try to gain full custody of the children. Rather than seek compromise, common cause with their ex-spouse on ways to raise the children in a mutually acceptable fashion, they try to “steal the children”. They often do this by defaming the integrity of the former spouse, or his or her sanity, or his or her fundamental ability to serve as a functional parent. They are often supported financially by their own families and Chareidi communities, in an effort to “save the children’s souls”. They often even try to turn the children against the other parent.

Rabboisai, this is not an action that is Betzelem Eloykim, in the image of the Divine. Human beings have free choice, and even when we do not agree with such choices, we have to tolerate and accept them. Children have TWO parents biologically, and other than in extreme cases where the children themselves are in danger of physical or emotional harm, they are best off having two parents, even when the parents are no longer together.

Divorce is a painful experience – I have seen this up close. But seeking sole custody, denying access, poisoning the minds of the children, or publically defaming the name of the former spouse is NOT the fulfillment of ensuring Mitzvois Bain Adam LaMakoim. It is a terrible violation of Bain Adam LeChaveiroi.

We are living in dark times. We are living in an era when many in the Orthodox community, including many in the Orthodox leadership, have placed all of their emphasis on Bain Adam LaMakoim, and have set aside a basic commitment to Bain Adam LeChaveiroi. In the name of Toirah – but really in the name of maintaining their own hegemony and power and control – they are breaking up families; they are ignoring sexual abuse; they are causing humiliation and pain; they are even causing death.

Rabboisai, Judaism is not the exclusive purview of the Chassidic Rebbes or the Rabbis or the synagogue presidents. It is not the exclusive domain of the Askanim, the power brokers, or of the wealthy. WE WERE ALL created Betzelem Eloykim, in the image of the Divine.

Rabboisai, we are living in dark times. Judaism has a cancer. It is time to take Judaism back.

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This Drasha was written in memory of Deb Tambor A’H.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Doing Business With Israelis

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Doing Business With Israelis

Rabboisai,

This week I respond to a critical issue which is on everybody's mind. Especially if your name is Achmed.

Yankel P. writes:

"Dear Rabbi Pinky,

"One of the Ten Commandments in not to steal. However, in Israel it seems to be required to cheat your fellow Jew in every business transaction it is possible to conceive of. If the person to be cheated happens to be an American, not only is the requirement to cheat him, but to take immense pleasure in it and brag to all your friends how you tricked the American frier [ed: "sucker"]. My question is: Has the commandment not to steal been voided just in Israel, or all over the world?"

Well Yankele, my beloved Talmid, BOY do you have issues. But before I address your question, I did want to take a moment to apologize. You initially sent me your question several weeks ago, and then resent it this week when I did not post a response. Please understand: I get thousands of letters every week from confused Talmidim such as yourself, lost and troubled souls, looking for direction, and, usually, a handout. I simply cannot respond to all shailahs, what, with the football season winding down and the NBA season in full swing... err, I mean with all of my deep Toirah commitments that keep me busy from morning until night.

Your insightful question really touches on several issues, which I will address one at a time. Please allow me to restate and interpret your words:

- Why do Israelis have the moral scruples of a chimpanzee with an erection (chass v'sholom)?

- Why are they proud of their character flaws?

- Should I as a Jew see Israeli behavior as somewhat "normative," reflecting the Reboinoisheloilum's desire to evolve human interactions to the highest Madreigah, Or shall I set aside my naive view of Israelis as the culmination of human history, and see them as the spineless Minuvals they really are?

Clearly, modern Israeli actions are analogous to the behaviour of Klal Yisroel in biblical times. After all, Yankif Avinu stole the birthright of Eisav through blatant exploitation and the deception of Yitzchak, their father. The shvatim (twelve tribes) kidnapped their brother Yoiseph Hatzadik and collaborated in a plot to cover up their actions. According to a Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah, they also used to steal sugar packets in restaurants. Dovid Hamelech stole Bassheva, the wife of Uriah, and connived to have Uriah killed on the battlefield to cover up his misdeeds (principally, impregnating Bassheva. Didn't Dovid Hamelech, the brilliant soldier and statesman, ever hear of "protection," if you know what I mean?).

So we have a national heritage of thievery. Sure, on the other side of the equation we have a Moishe Rabbeinu, who felt guilty buying groceries that were on sale. But should we emulate him? If he was such a good role model, why wasn't he allowed into Eretz Yisroel? Obviously, there was a reason (because Aimishteh knows, He would NEVER do anything purely random, such as have my goyyishe-kup neighbor win the lottery, while I have to continue to serve Slurpees at 7-11 during the overnight shift in order to pay my kids' yeshiva tuition.)

So Israelis have this heritage, which they cultivate, in an ever focused effort to exceed even our forefathers in their criminality. In their business dealings they take what does not belong to them. Then they negotiate, supposedly in good faith, and, ultimately, renege on their agreements. And all the while they roll out the carpet of self pity: "We are a poor country... We have very few natural resources... We are surrounded by hostile neighbors... We were persecuted for 2000 years." No wonder the Arabs hate the Israelis. You hate them. I hate them. We should all hate them. After all, 500 million Arabs can't be wrong!

Indeed, the Israeli penchant for dishonesty is also grounded in other layers of Jewish history. A Gemarra in Babba Kamma tells us of the three instances in which one is allowed to steal:

-- For Pikuach Nefesh -- the preservation of human life,

-- For Shalom Bayis -- the sanctity of the household and maintaining good relations with one's spouse; and

-- To lower your tax burden.

In fact, there is a Braisah in Masechess Airuvin that tells us that Rabbi Akiva was once arrested for shoplifting, and Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah was a kleptomaniac.

Interestingly enough, the key motivation for Israeli thievery is not what one would expect -- to profit at the expense of another. No, their instincts are far more base than that. In your own words, Yankele, "If the person to be cheated happens to be an American, not only is the requirement to cheat him, but to take immense pleasure in it and brag to all your friends how you tricked the American frier." What you describe does not sound like a habitual thief, who creeps stealthily though the night. Rather, it sounds like a teenage boy, who was just mezaneh for the first time, Rachmana Letzlan, and now has the share his news with all of his comrades.

I am reminded of a maiseh shehoya. Reb Chaim Vital, one of the noted students of the ARI ZAHL, was once in Salonika to speak at a UJA breakfast. After a long lecture on the topic of the relationship between the Shchinah, Klal Yisroel, the Sefira of Yesoid, and Hakkadoshboruchhu's collection of vintage cars, Reb Chaim went to the event organizer to collect his honorarium. But he was told, "Reb Chaim, we view your honorarium as YOUR contribution to our organization." Reb Chaim walked away with a smile on his face. But after the event was over and everyone had left, Reb Chaim jumped the event organizer on his way out of the building, beat him up and stole all the proceeds.

That night, an angry Rebboinoisheloilum came to Reb Chaim in a dream. "Don't be angry, Aimishteh," Reb Chaim said, "I'll give you your cut."

"It's not that,"Hakkadoshboruchhu replied, "it's that you forgot to also steal his wallet."

In Birchas Hamazon, the prayer after meals, many people add a line which is a prayer for the State of Israel, "Raishis Smichas Geulusainu," which roughly means "the dawn of our redemption." A similar line exists in the prayer for the State, recited in Reform, Conservative, and other fringe synagogues, such as Modern Orthodox. What motivates our support for Israel? Is is guilt? Is it some sense of loyalty? Is it a mutual identity? Is it the knowledge that Israel is the only country in the world where the local hot shiksas are Jewish?

Whichever it is (I personally believe it is the latter), we fool ourselves when we project our Messianic hopes and dreams not only on the historical advent of the modern State of Israel, but also on the character of its inhabitants. Make no mistake: Israelis are a bunch of Minuvals who smoke like chimneys, spit the shells of sunflower seeds on the public bus, wear sandals to weddings, and don't even know how to make a tie. When we lend them our trust, and then get disappointed when they steal, lie and cheat, then we get what we deserve. But we learn for the future...

So I am personally guided by an important rule of thumb: For Toirah and Jewish Sovereignty -- Israelis. For business -- Saudis, Qataris, and Egyptians, Germans, British, Belgians, Americans, Mexicans, Canadians, Apache, Tutsi, Eskimos, and Martians. But never an Israeli.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, November 15, 2013

On the Blessed Event

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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On the Blessed Event

Rabboisai,

I was on my way to the Lower East Side last Sunday when I decided to take respite from my journey and stopped to engage a roadside Kedaishah. Under other circumstances, my Bashert, Feigeh Breineh, would have responded by carving her initials on my Bris Milah with a Challah knife. However, given that following my brief encounter (at which, I should note, I left behind neither my staff nor my signet ring, only my Gold Card) I successfully completed my errand, and all was forgiven. And what, you may ask, was my task? Well, I went to the Lower East Side to pick up the gold-lame-and-sequin-covered Bentchers for the Bar Mitzvah of my Einikel, little Feivel.

What is the source of the Mitzvah of the Bar Mitzvah, and what is the Ikkar Mitzvah upon which we are Metzuveh? I bet you have wondered this your whole life, you ignorant Shaygitz, but never made an effort to ask because it would have required you to get up from the television for five minutes.

Well, the source of the Bar Mitzvah is discussed explicitly in a Gemarrah in Kesuvois. According to Rav Ashi, the Bar Mitzvah is conducted to commemorate the bond between the Reboinoisheloilum and Klal Yisroel. And the reason why it requires a boy to celebrate at the age of thirteen is Zecher L’Yishmael, to commemorate the age at which Yishmael, that other son of Avraham Avinu, had his Bris Milah. And we emulate the removal of Yishmael’s foreskin by emasculating our sons in front of an audience of 400 Shul-goers.

But Rabbi Chiya holds Farkhert: Making a thirteen year old Leyn in front of family, friends, and strangers is not at all like a Bris Milah, since the scars of Bris Milah heal within a week. Rather, Rabbi Chiya argues, a Bar Mitzvah is more like Akeidas Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac. The fear and loathing of reading the Parsha in Shul and being corrected by a handful of self-righteous perfectionist misanthropes can only be compared to sending your own son to slaughter, only this time with a sushi bar and a Viennese table. And the resulting emotional scars indeed echo the deep psychological trauma that undoubtedly plagued Yitzchak Avinu throughout his entire life.

How is one required to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah? A different Gemarrah in Eiruvin notes that Rish Lakish, when not learning for twenty six hours a day in the Bais Medrish, supported himself by working as a photographer at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, divorces, and the occasional Baptism. The Gemarrah quotes Rish Lakish as saying, “Three is better than one, but six is better than three.” According to Reb Saadya Goyn, Rish Lakish was referring to Ma’aisei Biyuh on the weekend. But according to Reb Hai Goyn, Rish Lakish was referring to members of a band playing at a Bar Mitzvah, noting that “a one man band at a Bar Mitzvah is like a flat-chested woman. The equipment may work, but it’s never your preference.”

There is a Machloikess Reshoinim that emanates from this Gemarrah between RASHI, Toisfois, and the ROISH regarding how a thirteen year old boy should commemorate his Bar Mitzvah. Koolay Alma Loi Pligi, everyone agrees, that a Bar Mitzvah boy should mark his becoming a man by reading from the Toirah. So where do they argue? They debate regarding what should follow Kriyas HaToirah. According to RASHI, after successfully reading his Parsha, a Bar Mitzvah Bochur should go into the Bais Medrish to recite Hallel. According to Toisfois, a thirteen year old boy should follow up his reading of the Toirah by going to the kitchen to eat a hearty breakfast. But according to the Roish, after finishing his Maftir and Haftoirah, a Bar Mitzvah boy should be escorted from the main sanctuary by a group of his friends, singing and dancing, and should be led to the Yichud room for a half hour session with his Tahtee’s “special friend”, Bambi.

There is an interesting historical debate regarding another important Bar Mitzvah custom – the throwing of candy at the Bar Mitzvah boy. What is the source of this custom? According to the ARI ZAHL, the practice was established by the MAHARAM MiRothenburg during the persecutions of 1275 in order to beat away the dark Klipois from the body of the child, leaving only the Holy Sparks. However, according to Reb Moishe Cordovero, the custom of throwing candy was introduced by the RAMBAM during the recession of 1194 in order to drum up business by raising the level of diabetes in the community.

How much should one spend on a Bar Mitzvah? This question has been a source of deep Toirah discussion, Talmudic discourse, marital debate, and bankruptcy hearings for the past 700 years.

According to the Shulchan Aruch, a person should not spend more than would be required to feed guests “KeBaitzah”, about an egg’s volume of food. However, he believes that the Bar Mitzvah should be a celebratory event open to the entire community and neighboring communities, costing no less than two months of the average household income, as defined by the KY (Klal Yisroel) Index based on the average income of all Jews for the twelve months prior to the event.

The RAMAH, however, disagrees, referring to Reb Yoisaiph Karo, the Mechaber of the Shulkhan Aruch, as a “swarthy cheapskate”. The RAMAH holds that one is required to feed every guest “KeTarnegol”, a volume of food equivalent to the size of a chicken. In addition, the RAMAH points out, one must have at least one live band, or, at a minimum, a DJ accompanied by motivational dancers. As well, suggests the RAMAH, one is required to hand out Tchatchkees (“little toys from China” in English) to all of the children to bring home, so that their parents will be reminded to begin planning for their own blessed events by serving a one dollar box of pasta at every meal for the next year, except for Shabbos Koidesh, when they are permitted to serve Traif meat since it is a quarter of the price of Koisher. The cost of the Bar Mitzvah should be no less than six months of average household income according to the KY Index, or half of the family assets, whichever is the larger number.

Finally, the Mishnah Berurah holds that one must feed every guest “KeEigel”, a volume of food equivalent to a small cow. The food should be varied and should include no less than four courses, including fresh sushi served by a Mexican chef who sort-of looks Asian. Further, it is a Mitzvah to have a half hour of speeches and a video montage, so that the guests will have an opportunity to take a brief nap between courses. In addition to Tchatchkees, there is a requirement to have novelty photo booths and games for the children to play. There should also be adult activities for the parents and grandparents – a makeup artist for the women, so they can experiment with different eye shades and colors of nail polish, and lap dances for the men, preferably delivered by the hot Shiksa motivational dancers. The Mishnah Berurah also holds that it is a Hiddur Mitzvah, a preferred additional Mitzvah, to have jugglers, Chassidic guys who can dance with bottles on their heads, and elephants. The minimum cost is equivalent to half of the value of the family home or ten times Yeshivah tuition, whichever is the larger number.

I spent much time going through these Halachois with my own son, Reb Boruch Gedalia Pesachya Issur Simcha Schmeckelstein, regarding the planning of the Bar Mitzvah for my Einikel, Feivel Yisroel Shmuel Eliyahu Rabbah. My son, of course, is known by his Rabbinic acronym, the BIG PISS, while my grandson is known as the Little PISHER. After a detailed discussion of the religious laws, as well as a forensic review of our family finances, we determined to spend somewhere between the position of the Shulchan Aruch and the RAMAH. However, we agreed that the more important component of the Bar Mitzvah was the reading of the weekly Toirah portion.

To ensure that the Little PISHER would not feel excessive family pressure, we hired an outside Bar Mitzvah teacher. For $50 a lesson, he taught little Feivel the week’s Parsha. For an extra $25 a lesson, he taught him the Haftoirah. And for another $20 a lesson, he also taught Feivel the week’s New Testament reading, which is from Mark, Perek Chuff Baiz, where we read about how Jesus kills an abortion doctor, and how John The Baptist is reassigned by the Church to teach in a school for children that can neither speak nor write.

I am reminded of a famous Maiseh Shehoya. The Chernobler Rebbe, the Meor Einayim – Reb Menachem Nachum Twersky, was once delivering a Drasha on the Mitzvah of Shiluach HaKan, the chasing away of a mother bird before taking the baby birds to eat. The Toirah, of course, promises the same reward for this Mitzvah as the reward promised for honoring one’s parents. The Cherlobler suggested that the Mitzvois of Shiluah HaKan and Kahbaid Ess Avicha are comparable because they are two sides of the same coin: The purpose of a parent is to raise a child to become an adult, and we must respect that role, even once the children have left the nest. Suggested the Chernobler, “We make a Bar Mitzvah celebration to commemorate the children’s leaving the nest. This is a celebration for the benefit of the parents, for which they receive great joy.”

After Shul was over, a boy of thirteen came over to the Rebbe and asked, “Rebbe, why is the Bar Mitzvah a celebration for the parents when it is the son who does all the work?”

The Rebbe looked down at the boy, smiled warmly, and said, “Son, at your age, you have a lot of joy. You wake up in the morning, and you have joy. You are in front of your classroom, writing at the board, and you have joy, to your great embarrassment. You are riding in the school bus and feel a bit of a vibration, and you have joy, whether you want it or not. You even get a little joy when you look at the three hundred pound secretary in your Yeshiva. And when you are alone in your room and have a few minutes to yourself, you are overflowing with joy, I am sure. I know I was when I was your age – at least twice a day.”

The Chernobler continued. “But your parents don’t have all that much joy anymore. If they are lucky, they have joy maybe once a week. So if the Bar Mitzvah gives them a little more joy, it can only help the marriage. At least until their house is repossessed.” With that, the Rebbe went off to do vodka shots, fondle Mrs. Goldberg, and take a nap.

Finally, I would like to address one related Shailah that many of my Talmidim ask me. Whenever I discuss this topic, they ask, why do I only focus on the Bar Mitzvah of a boy, and never discuss a Bat Mitzvah? The answer is quite simple: Girls are not supposed to have big celebrations when they reach the age of Mitzvois. According to the RIF, the most a girl should have is a party when she gets her first… err… Oirach KaNashim. At that party the parents should serve hard boiled eggs and hand out feminine protection to all the girl’s friends as party favors. After all, if the Reboinoisheloilum wanted girls to have a big party, read from the Toirah, put on Tfillin, be counted in a Minyan, be required to Daven three times a day, get equal pay for equal work, have the right to vote, be allowed to drive, etc., He would have given them a penis.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

On the Twilight Years

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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Rabboisai,

I had the occasion last Moitzee Shabbos Koidesh to meet several of my Talmidim at a Melaveh Malka. Besides the Freilichen singing and dancing, we had delightful yellowtail and spicy tuna, although the squid was a little stringy. (I know you are wondering how the Yeshivah could serve squid at a Melaveh Malka. According to the RAMAH one may eat squid and octopus even though they do not have fins and scales, since they neither have shells nor dwell on the ocean floor. However, they must be prepared in a separate pot and eaten with a separate fork. According to the Mogayn Avraham there is even a special Brachah for squid and octopus: “Al Achilas Scungeel”.)

In any case, I was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, to learn that these Talmidim read my Drashas every week but have not purchased my Seforim. A Shandah!

Minuvals: Do you think that I am writing Divrei Toirah and selling Sforim for my own good? The proceeds of my Sforim, in addition to paying off my bookie, are used to support my Talmidim in Yeshivah, provide a small stipend to the Buchrim in Koilel, subsidize the restoration of Kever Amalek in Eretz Kena’an, and purchase packages of EZ Wider, 1.5 inches, double gummed, at the local Sforim store, located right above The Jewish Press and across from the beef jerky.

Finally, I would like to remind all of my Talmidim that my Drashas are LeChatchila not meant to be read on an iPhone or other 4 inch screen, or even on a PC or an iPad. MY DRASHAS ARE MEANT TO BE PRINTED OUT AND READ IN SHUL, so that you can look smart sitting two seats away from that Schmuck who kills one tree a week printing out Drashas from Aish HaToirah, Toirah.Org, the Young Israel, and Vatican.Com on such critical Inyunim as why Moishe Rabbeinu never used dental floss on Shabbos and why Aroin HaCoihain always wore striped boxer shorts while performing the Avoidah in the Mishkan.

Shoyn.
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On the Twilight Years

“Al Tashlichainu Le’ais Ziknah, Kichlois Koichainu, Al Ta’Azveinu.” “Do not discard us in our old age; as our strength wanes, do not abandon us.” This phrase, familiar to us from Shma Koilaynu, is rooted in the words of Tehillim, Psalms, written by Dovid Hamelech after his son Shloimoi came by to visit and stole money to support his crack habit. This phrase was later inserted into the Tefillois of Slichois. Of course, in its inclusion into the Shma Koilaynu, the Passuk was transformed from the singular form to the plural.

There is a famous three way Machloikess between the MAHARAL MiPRAGUE, the Toisfois Yuntif, and the Tzemach Dovid about the proper Kavvanah, the proper intent, that one is meant to have when reciting this Passuk.

According to the MAHARAL, when reciting these words, we are supposed to be thinking about our individual selves, despite the transition of the paraphrase into plural form. This is because we are all aging as individuals, and will age in the future, and are pleading to the Reboinoisheloilum for divine assistance. Many men will lose their hair. Many women will have their Tzitzach sag so low to the ground they are in danger of stomping on their nipples every time they take a step. Many men will have erectile dysfunction so frequently that they will have the Bracha of Zoikaif Kefufim tattooed on their arms. Many women, after having a minimum of twelve children, will have their Ervas become so loose that they will be able to carry around their keys, their cellphones, a bagel, and a book to read on Shabbos Koidesh without being Chayuv for the Dioraisah of carrying in Reshus HaRabim, Chass V’Sholom.

The Toisfois Yuntif, however, holds that as we say this Passuk, we are supposed to be concentrating on pleading to Hakadoshboruchhu on behalf of all of Klal Yisroel. Here we are, a proud People, beaten down by all of the other nations, Yemach Shmum, as we pass through the millennia, ravaged by history. We were at eternity’s doorstop, says the Toisfois Yuntif, as our Moshiach arrived to bring about the end of time and initiate an eternity of Divine grace, Toirah, and free parking. However, our Moshiach was rejected by a rebellious clique, and now we await His second coming, as we celebrate Him by making Kiddush on red wine and taking the Eucharist every Sunday morning. Of course, the Toisfois Yuntif was a practicing Roman Catholic, so his Sheetah is not relevant to us, with the possible exception of the utopian vision of adequate street level parking in Oilum Habbah.

Finally, the Tzemach Dovid holds like the Toisfois Yuntif, that as we recite this Passuk we need to have in mind the well being of Am Yisroel. We are suffering the indignities of our collective longevity and feel forgotten after two thousand years of exile. Sure, we control world banking, the global media, and the diamond industry, and have absolutely cornered the market on Kemach Yoshon. And of course we have our own country after two thousand years. But it is filled with corruption and immorality, and is certainly not the redemption that we prayed for, what, with its young girls scantily clad in their long sleeve shirts and long skirts, invading the holy space of the true Shoimrey Emunah, tempting them with their coquettish ways. So we must throw stones and attack this evil amongst us in order to expunge it from our midst, or at the very least get it off of our side of the street, while continuing to pray on behalf of Klal Yisroel that the Aimishteh does not abandon us in our communal old age.

This Halachic debate is actually rooted in a historical question on the proper understanding of the strange story of Avishag HaShunamis. We are told at the beginning of Sefer Melachim Aleph about how Dovid HaMelech, in his deteriorated, elderly state, is given a young woman, Avishag HaShunamis, to keep him warm in his bed. However, we are told, “VeHana’arah Yuffuh Ad Meoid, VaTehee LaMelech Soicheness VaTeshursayhu, VeHamelech Loi Yudu’uh”, “And the young woman was very beautiful, and she became a companion to the king and ministered to him, and (but) the king did not know her.” (Melachim Aleph, Perek Aleph, Passuk Daled.)

There is a famous Machloikess in a Gemarrah in Makkois about what actually happened between Dovid HaMelech and Avishag. According to Rava, Dovid was disinclined to engaged in Znuss with his unmarried concubine because he was too busy studying Toirah. Rava cites a Braisah quoting Rabban Gamliel who insisted that his ancient ancestor Dovid HaMelech was absolutely obsessed with Daf Yoimi and studying Sefer Shemiras HaLashoin, and would ignore everything else: Young maidens in his bed, the occasional son trying to usurp his throne, the many rivalries between his multiple wives, and the all-you-can-eat buffet at the local Red Lobster.

Abaya, on the other hand, believes that Dovid had lost all interest in the Meidelach, but instead loved to spend time with his arms bearer, Horace, with whom he wrestled day and night, if you know what I mean, while poor Avishag had to retreat to bed alone every night with one of David Hamelech’s battery powered spear polishers. According to the RADAK, Klal Yisroel could hear Avishag’s solitary passionate outbursts all the way in Bais Lechem, Rachmanah Letzlan.

However, Rav Chisda holds Farkert. According to Rav Chisda, the term in the Passuk stating that Dovid Hamelech did not “know” Avishag is not to be understood in the traditional Biblical/ Rabbinic sense of not having intimate relations. Adderabbah! Rav Chisda cites a Medrish that suggests that Dovid HaMelech always had Tashmish HaMitah with Avishag immediately after reciting Shmoineh Esrei – that is three times a day during the week, four times a day on Shabbos un Yuntif, and five times a day (!) on Yoim Kippur. And the reason the Passuk says that Dovid did not know her is that he never, once, had an actual conversation with her, since, due to his age, he could only complete the Makka V’Patish when Avishag performed Metzitzah Bipeh on him. So whenever Dovid Hamelech asked Avishag a question about her family or the weather or her philosophical position on euthanasia or her perspectives on supply side economics, she could not respond because she always had a little something stuck in her throat.

Shoyn.

It is without a doubt that Tehillim and the Toirah in general note the impact and ravages of time as part of the collective human experience. Klal Yisroel is portrayed as a nation passing through history, with heroes, leaders and other figures who are not deities or demi-gods, but who are frail, fragile human beings who are born, struggle throughout life, and then, if they do not die young through war or disease, reach the Oilum HaEmess after 120 years. This is part of the inescapable reality that is the human condition. The Zoihar ponders this idea, speculating on the basic nature of humanity. Why, asks the Zoihar, were humans and other living things made mortal, while rocks and other inanimate objects are designed to exist forever?

The Zoihar suggests that humanity’s basic nature is derived from the Sefirah of Yesoid, one of the ten Sefirois, elements of the Godhead, as described in Kabbalah, classical Jewish Mysticism. The Sefirah of Yesoid is responsible for channeling energy into the human world from the other Sefirois of Hoid, Netzach, and Tiferess. In the anthropomorphic understanding of the Divine Sefirois, Yesoid is also viewed as the equivalent of the Shvantsyl, the male Tashmish organ. (Note: This is absolutely true, but the way. Look it up, if you dare…) As such, Yesoid is associated with the organ that participates in a physical act that has an often challenging beginning, a typically pleasurable middle part, and a disruptive culmination, and is frequently followed by a quick cigarette and turning over and going to sleep. In other words, human existence is a reflection of the Divine, which has its own cadence of bio-cycles. While the Reboinoisheloilum is eternal, He embodies processes that involve a beginning, middle, and end, followed by a nap, and then, eventually, renewal.

The ARIZAL, however, takes this thinking one step further. The ARIZAL agrees with the Zoharic conception of humanity being a reflection of the Divine. However, he sees the human condition as in fact directly mirroring Hakadoshboruchhu. Let’s face it: Whether you are a Biblical literalist and believe that the world is 6000 years old, or someone with half a brain who understands that the universe is billions of years old, the Aimishteh is one old Dude. He probably has some grey hair at this point, or no hair at all. Maybe the Yesoid isn’t working quite the way it once did, and maybe at this point the Melech Malchei HaMelachim needs an afternoon nap. Maybe the reason that the Reboinoisheloilum seems to have forgotten the Jews from time to time is not because He is punishing us or trying to teach us a lesson, but because He is actually absent minded, and genuinely forgot about us (Hakadoshboruchhu knows, He has a lot of things to keep track of). Maybe pogroms happened for hundreds of years as He was taking naps, the Spanish Inquisition happened because He was having a pacemaker put in, and the Shoah happened because He was out for a few days (in Aimishteh time) to have His gall bladder removed. And the State of Israel was established after He took a sizable dose of Viagra.

Regardless, “Al Tashlichainu Le’ais Ziknah, Kichlois Koichainu, Al Ta’Azveinu,” just as we do not want to be abandoned in our old age, we should not abandon the Reboinoisheloilum in His twilight years. After all, He is the only Hakadoshboruchhu we’ve got. So we have to nurture the relationship and care for Him, visit Him a bit more often and remind Him to put on His pants. We should not expect Him to be the Aimishteh He once was, at least in our eyes, but have reasonable and realistic expectations about His capabilities and limitations. And most important, we should make sure that He does not sign over all His assets to our goddamned brother, since we need those funds to pay off our bookie and buy some more EZ Wider for rolling our Bsomim, so we can get nice and Freilichin at a future Maleveh Malka.

Ah Freilichin Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, November 08, 2013

Fifty Shades of Toirah

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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Fifty Shades of Toirah


Rabboisai,

I cannot believe I am about to share this with you, my beloved Talmid, but my conscience requires it.

I am the scion of a great Rabbinic family, whose commitment to Toirah goes back many generations. Through my descent from my great, great, great grandfather, the Kutsker Ruv, I am strongly committed to the practice of Shnayim Mikra VaEchad Targum, reviewing the weekly Toirah portion twice prior to Shabbos Koidesh. In truth, the vast majority of my contemporaries review the Parsha out of a simple Chumash, sitting in the Bais Medrish or on a train, or while looking at their iPhone Toirah App while waiting on line to pick up a dozen lottery tickets.

But not me. I have inherited from the Kutsker a grand tradition -- Shnayim Mikra VaEchad Targum must be performed using a Klaf, a literal Sefer Toirah, to bring about the true closeness between Klal Yisroel and the Aimishteh who hovers above us at all times.

It is with this background that I describe a unique episode that occurred last week. I was visiting the Bais Medrish of Chofetz Chaim in Queens, and was somewhat surprised at the haste with which the Talmidim abandoned the Bais Medrish in order to watch the men's gymnastics competition at Queens College. I was all alone. And I needed to complete my family Minhag, as Shabbos Koidesh was only one day away.

With no one in sight I approached the Aroin Koidesh, slowly pulling back the curtains to reveal a five foot Toirah peeking out at me, covered in a maroon velvet dress. I reached into the Aroin, at first teasing the taut embroidery, circling it slowly with my fingers. I then lightly put my hands around the Sefer Toirah, gently feeling around its curves, and slowly but delicately lifted it out of its location by its underside. As it became freed from its restraints, I brought the Toirah close to me, holding it near to my chest, the exhalation of my very breath depositing moisture on the tip of the velvet cover.

I hugged the Toirah in the crook of my arm as I slowly and cautiously carried it to the Bimah. This was a beautiful Toirah, soft to the touch, with a clean, earthy scent. After gently laying the Toirah down, I leaned over and kissed its center, its belly, feeling a little give as each of two scrolls parted slightly at my touch. As the Kabbalists tell us, as much as the calf wants to suckle, the cow wants to give of its milk. And I sensed the longing of the Toirah to open itself to me.

With a slow but steady hand I began to remove the Toirah Deckel, the cover, tugging it up slowly as it willingly yielded to my touch, ultimately allowing it to fall to the floor. The Sefer Toirah was now completely exposed, save its belt, whose role was to modestly preserve the holy works of the Rebboinoisheloilum. The parallel rolled scrolls on either side were interlocked at the top and the base. My right hand drifted, lazily sliding from the top of the scroll to the belt, and I felt the smooth, cool, tightly wound parchment against my palm, which had begun to perspire slightly.

My hand reached the belt, the elasticized velvet sash linked at the center by a metal buckle. I unlatched the buckle with a deft flick of my finger, a move I had employed countless times before. I carefully slid the belt out from under the Toirah’s back, letting it, too, slide to the floor.

With its girding no longer in place, the scrolls parted softly. I gently nudged them apart, encountering little resistance. With a little more push on the handles, the scrolls opened for me completely.

A rush of excitement came over me as I saw my ultimate goal: The busy, curved black and white patterns of ink on parchment, a contrast that thrills me as much today as it did the first time I beheld a Toirah up close as a young Yeshiva Bucher.

I started by focusing on the first Aliyah. I took my Yad and gently followed the lines, right to left, right to left, right to left. The Toirah responded to every touch of my Yad, offering give when I applied slight pressure, heaving slightly up as I pulled my Yad back.

At that very moment, the world around us had melted away This was the Toirah’s purpose, this was my purpose – a delicate dance, a coupling of Toirah and Scholar.

The gentle interplay continued for nearly thirty minutes. As I completed the first Aliyah, the second Aliyah, the third… my focus on the Toirah intensified, and I found myself rushing to complete the Parsha, while trying to no go too fast.

As I neared the end of Shviyi, my concentration was broken, as one of the Yeshiva Buchrim reentered the Bais Medrish with a handful of tissues and proceeded to diligently wipe down his Shtender. He suddenly looked up and asked, “Why are you touching that Sefer Toirah?”

“It is my Minhag”, I exclaimed, suddenly feeling self-conscious. I tried to disguise my embarrassment and frustration, unsuccessfully.

The Bucher walked over to the Bimah and stared, first at me, then at the Toirah Deckel and belt on the floor, and finally at the Toirah itself. “But that Sefer Toirah is Passul!” he declared, as he ascended the Bimah and reached down to pick the velvet cover and belt off of the floor.

“But I must finish!” I insisted, my face growing redder by the minute.

The Bucher tried to push me aside, using his body to shove me out of the way. But my anxiousness had reached a fever pitch. Using my right arm I blocked the Bucher’s access to the Toirah. With my left arm, I reach for the nearest object I could find, in this case a copy of the Artscroll Siddur for the Baal Tefillah. I lifted the oversized volume and used it to strike the Bucher in the head, knocking him off of the Bimah. As he fell back, he struck his head on a copy of Mesilas Yesharim lying on the table next to the Bimah and fell to the floor, unconscious.

I took the next few minutes to hurriedly complete my session with the Toirah, breathlessly finishing my review of the Parsha with an awkward flurry. Pausing for a moment to recover, I then quickly redressed the Toirah, and gently placed it back in the Aroin Koidesh.

Shnayim Mikra VaEchad Targum. For some it is a burden. For others, it is a labor of love.

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Rabboisai,

Undoubtedly some of my readers may have taken offense to my anecdote for its erotic echos. However, those readers are complete Neveilah ignoramuses. Yiddishkeit is filled with erotic imagery when describing Klal Yisroel’s relationship to Hakadoshboruchhu and to the Toirah, and to human relations between men and women. We see this throughout the Toirah. In Shir Hashirim for example, “Smoiloi Tachas LeRoishi, ViYiminoi Techabkaynee”, “Let his left hand be under my head, and his right hand embrace me.” (Shir Hashirim, Perek Baiz, Passook Vuv).

Or in many references in the Zoihar. One example:

"… just as a Lulav does not grow (and bear fruit) unless the male be planted by the female, so the Tzaddik cannot flourish save when husband and wife are united, when the male aspect of Tzaddik is united with the female aspect of Tzaddik, as with Avraham and Sarah" (Zohar, Bereshit 82a).

Ours is a religion for adults, male and female. But if you cannot handle the adult nature of the Toirah, I suggest you give up studying Gemarrah or performing Shnayim Mikra VaEchad Targum, and instead focus on reading The Little Midrash Says, or Mesilas Yesharim.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, you Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess